TThere seems to be continued debate within the industry about the validity and value of an integrated advertising sales approach. The fact that this is even a topic for debate points to the heart of one of our biggest issues: our lack of creativity and innovation beyond the traditional world of print.
I will avoid the pitfall of outlining a recommended structure for an integrated sales team, because each market is different and the principle of integrated selling is about creating solutions for advertisers and as such there can't be one perfect formula. However, there are some very important steps to take in considering the value and merits of offering integrated solutions.
We don't compete with other newspapers for advertising. We compete with Google, TV, radio and everyone else who dreams up a business plan that is solely funded by advertising revenues. None of these competitors are obsessed by single-copy centimetres or box-shaped ads; they are increasingly driven by audience reach and advertising effectiveness.
The biggest risk for all of us in not embracing the concept of integrated selling is that we move too far downstream with advertisers and our only conversation is about rate and discount. The principle of an integrated approach is to the core of the basic principles of sales and marketing: knowing your customer, understanding their needs and delivering a product or service that meets those needs (at a profit).
This sounds very basic, but I would argue it is a huge cultural shift for a lot of us. It requires a different approach to selling advertising grounded in creative thinking, empowerment and investment in talent and training. While the solution is definitely not a one-size-fits-all model for this, what is common is the strength of our brands and the growth in size, profile and reach of our audience through web and mobile.
By embracing an integrated approach to how we sell and what we sell, we should allow ourselves to be upstream when clients are developing briefs and be part of that conversation and avoid being on the end of the phone arguing about the size of the discount. Also it's a much more exciting place for talented advertising sales people to work and develop their careers.